Forum for the Future of Agriculture

…said Hilary Benn (Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Global Food Security “Why no thought for food?” of January 2010.

In 2007 and 2008, global food prices were soaring at levels beyond compare. Developing nations were struck especially hard, as their population depends much more on cheap staple foods and spends much larger parts of its disposable income on food commodities than we do in more developed countries. Having caused a catastrophe in terms of food insecurity, the crisis is far from over.

Although food prices have started to decrease again, they remain unusually high and volatile, and the underlying causes of the food crisis persist. Shortages in basic foods can be ascribed to the ever growing population and growing demand for meat and other costly foods in emerging industrial regions, but food insecurity is also related to particularly low yields induced by droughts and the other challenges of changing natural conditions.

We can now no longer justify any further delay of action if we want to ensure the global food supply and avoid crisis like those of the last years at all costs. Raising agricultural productivity in face of climate change will be the first necessary step for both developed and developing nations. Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD, points to estimates that predict another 63 million people might be forced into hunger within 10 years under the pressure of climate change.

The silent hunger crisis, affecting one-sixth of all of humanity, poses a serious risk for world peace and security. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Surprisingly enough, the increase in temperature that is commonly estimated at +2°C will actually lead to an improved situation in already advantaged regions, such as northern Europe and Canada, with warmer winters and better farming conditions. The average global yield might even increase, according to the IPCC.

But the prospects of achieving permanent food security and delimiting damage to the environment remain dim in developing regions. Droughts will be detrimental to the unstable agricultural systems in sub-Saharan Africa, floods will cause damage in the deltas of Chinese rivers, where much of the world’s rice is cultivated; and dwindling glaciers pose a threat to the water supply for agriculture.

What can be done to ensure everyone’s “ right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family,including food…” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25)?

These and more issues will be discussed at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture FFA2010, on March 16. To register please follow instructions on www.forumforagriculture.com

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